Bob Dubree, President, Creative Remodeling, North Wales, Pa., Big 50 2000 Where did you get our name?

The answer to that question immediately moves them high on the list of people we want to see -- or low on that list. If they found us through a Yellow Pages ad, they go to the bottom. If they're a past customer, our response is, "Can we come out in the next 10 minutes?" If I had to pick one thing, that's probably it.

Tom Capizzi, President, Capizzi Home Improvement, Cotuit, Mass., Big 50 1993

When are you able to meet our estimator?

We're not that big on qualifying. So what we want to know is, when can we meet with someone in the decision-making process. We want to arrange a time for both buying parties -- husband and wife -- to meet with our salesperson. We ask, What's a good time for our estimators to meet with you for a couple of hours? We're not asking them can we meet with you, but when can we meet with you. The person on the telephone in our office asks that of every person who calls. We also want to know where they heard about us.

Gary Schoengold, President, National Energy Conservation Corp., Olney, Md., Big 50 2000

What product were you interested in?

We're a little unusual, because we get a lot of call-ins. So what we really want to know is what product they're interested in. When they say they're interested in an estimate, we want to get some idea of the type and size of the job. Let's say they say they want siding. A lot of times people will call us up thinking we're going to service them. Maybe one in 20 times, they want us to come out and fix a piece. They've got a shingle or a rake board that blew off, or a faulty gutter. I don't do repairs on jobs that have been done by other contractors. I used to, but it doesn't pay off. It's too time-consuming. I want to spend my time and energy focusing on the exact product they're interested in.

Greg Mason, Office manager, Castle Building and Remodeling, Minneapolis, Big 50 2000

What kind of project do you want to do and what's your budget?

It seems like a lot of people have misconceptions of the cost of something, and if you don't find that out up front, you could go and look at their project, create an estimate, and find out that it's not even in the ballpark. You end up doing a lot of wheel spinning. Of course, to some extent they're reluctant to answer the question, because they figure you're going to make your bid come out to whatever they say they have to spend.

Cindy Knutson-Lycholat, CR, CGR, Co-owner, Knutson Bros. II, East Troy, Wis., Big 50 2001

Are you aware of our design service?

Their answer to that tells me a lot, either way. If they say no, it gives me more ammo when I go in for the sales call. That's my selling tool. I know I have to impress them with the fact that we do design work. That's what makes us different from other contractors they'll talk to. If they say they are aware of our design service, then I know they've talked to somebody we've worked for. If they've heard we do design work, then they've heard of more than just our name.

Lynn Motheral, CGR, President, Stonegate Construction, Fort Worth, Texas., Big 50 1996

What criteria will you use to evaluate your remodeler?

The answer to this question tells me the most. It gets them thinking. A lot of them will say, "Well, I think that I want a good, quality, honest company that's been in business for a long time, that will warranty their work, and have a fair price." I ask them, What do you think is a fair price? Because a lot of people don't want to talk about numbers. So that way you can go in through the back door.